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Scott wrote:

Hi, guys —

First, I want to thank all of you for your answers to my first question. You were a great help. However, I have some other questions that have been plaguing me. I'd appreciate your insights again, if you don't mind.

Our ( RCIA ) Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults instructor has told me several things that really bother me. She told me "divorce was OK for basically any reason". She said that "if a person finds they simply don't love their spouse anymore, they (the leaders at the parish) would counsel the person to get a divorce from the state and an annulment from the Vatican.".

I understand getting a divorce if your spouse commits adultery, or is abusing you, but not simply because: "I don't love [him|her] anymore." That doesn't seem like a Christian attitude to me, and I've always been taught in my Baptist church that the only valid reasons for divorce are adultery and abuse. I thought the Catholic Church was very strict on divorces and annulments.

  • Was I wrong?
  • Has the Church loosened its restrictions on the requirements necessary to validly end a marriage?

I've always admired the Catholic Church's teachings on marriage, or at least what I thought were its teachings on marriage.

Our RCIA director also addressed the issue of abortion. She told me that "if a female parishioner came to either her or the priest after discovering that she was unexpectedly pregnant, and was seeking counsel about abortion, they would instruct her to follow her own conscience in the matter." This especially bothers me, because abortion has been rejected by the Church down through the centuries. Also, most Protestant denominations reject abortion as well. I cannot reconcile the idea of getting an abortion with living a Christian life. Abortion is a sin, and I always thought the Catholic Church believed so as well.

  • Again, was I wrong?

In addition, she told me that there are several active homosexual members of the parish. She said that most of them had been through RCIA . When I asked her if these members were receiving counsel regarding the sin of engaging in homosexual sex, she seemed evasive and just said "it wasn't our place to judge them." She said that "if someone was following God in every other area of [his/her] life, but was only sinning in this one area, then God would probably let them in to Heaven anyway." This violates everything I've ever learned in church about homosexual sex. A passage I read clearly states that a homosexual person can enter the kingdom of God if [he/she] repents of the sin of active homosexuality, however, someone who lives an active homosexual life cannot enter the kingdom of God. My RCIA instructor told me that "even sexually active homosexuals would probably get into Heaven." As her defense, she simply said that "God was merciful, and wouldn't send someone to Hell for having homosexual sex, since homosexuals are all born that way."

  • What's going on here?

On a couple minor issues, my local Catholic Church is noisy. very noisy; much noisier than most Protestant churches I've attended. This past Sunday, I wanted to sit in the pew, meditate and pray before Mass, but I couldn't. The sanctuary was simply too noisy. People were talking, laughing, walking and running around; children were playing in the aisles. No one seemed to care. Even the priest was standing at the rear of the sanctuary talking to a group of people. It was so noisy,
I couldn't think straight, much less pray. I ended up leaving right before Mass started.

When I asked my instructor about this, she didn't seem to care. She said "it just showed that the people at the parish were friendly and cared about each other." I can see her point, but it was extremely distracting. The silent atmosphere of reverence is something I've always found beautiful and attractive in the Catholic Church, and I was disappointed to find it absent in my local parish.

Finally, every time I've been to Mass at this parish, the Eucharist has always been sitting out in the hallway, on a folding table next to the main entrance.

  • Am I wrong, or is this considered to be disrespectful?

I'd appreciate any comments you have on this.

Thanks.

Scott

  { Has the Church loosened its teachings on a valid end to a marriage, abortion, and homosexuality? }

Eric replied:

You said:
Our RCIA instructor has told me several things that really bother me. She told me "divorce was OK for basically any reason". She said that "if a person finds they simply don't love their spouse anymore, they (the leaders at the parish) would counsel the person to get a divorce from the state and an annulment from the Vatican.".

I understand getting a divorce if your spouse commits adultery, or is abusing you, but not simply because: "I don't love [him|her] anymore." That doesn't seem like a Christian attitude to me, and I've always been taught in my Baptist church that the only valid reasons for divorce are adultery and abuse. I thought the Catholic Church was very strict on divorces and annulments.

  • Was I wrong?
  • Has the Church loosened its restrictions on the requirements necessary to validly end a marriage?

I've always admired the Catholic Church's teachings on marriage, or at least what
I thought were its teachings on marriage.


First of all your RCIA instructor is just totally out of line. At this stage, I would not believe anything she says about what the Church teaches. I am ashamed and embarrassed as a Catholic, to hear she has been admitted to such a position.

A few clarifications are in order:

  • Annulments are usually granted by the diocese. Possibly, in rare cases, a denial of an annulment might be appealed to the Vatican, who might then grant it, but the Vatican does not see 99.9% of annulment requests.

  • There is a distinction between {divorce} and {divorce and remarriage}.

    Catholicism allows civil divorce in certain circumstances, but it does not believe that divorce ends a valid, sacramental marriage, and so She does not permit remarriage after a divorce when a marriage is valid.

  • An annulment — properly called a "declaration of nullity" — declares that what appeared to be a marriage, was in fact defective from the beginning on some essential point, and so
    it was never, in fact, a valid marriage. For example:
    • if it was between two cousins, or
    • one of the spouses was coerced into it, or
    • the spouses agreed beforehand to have no children, or
    • there was some sort of psychological defect on the part of one of the spouses, that rendered their consent invalid or prevented them from truly entering into marriage.

  • I can't really answer whether the Church has "loosened its restrictions", but I will point out there is the theory, and there is the practice. It is well-known that Rome is not happy about the number of annulments granted in the U.S.A. Just because there are restrictions, it doesn't guarantee they will always be followed. Another point is that our society is in such a shape that attitudes and behaviors that violate the principles of marriage are rampant. I mentioned above that if you go into a marriage not intending to have children, that marriage is invalid, and an annulment would be straightforward.

    Also, for Catholics, if you do not get married in a Catholic church with the permission of the bishop, your marriage is invalid. Think of how many marriages fall into that category.

    A marriage is also invalid if you do not believe it is for life. That's another regrettable large proportion of marriages. Think of how many secularized people have no idea what Christian marriage is truly about — that can affect the validity of their marriages. So in point of fact, in our country, there are a lot of legitimate reasons to qualify for an annulment.

    Of course, to prevent these invalid marriages from happening in the first place, we should do a better job at teaching the true nature of marriage. The number of annulments is scandalous, whether they are legitimate or dubious.

You said:
Our RCIA director also addressed the issue of abortion. She told me that "if a female parishioner came to either her or the priest after discovering that she was unexpectedly pregnant, and was seeking counsel about abortion, they would instruct her to follow her own conscience in the matter." This especially bothers me, because abortion has been rejected by the Church down through the centuries. Also, most Protestant denominations reject abortion as well. I cannot reconcile the idea of getting an abortion with living a Christian life. Abortion is a sin, and I always thought the Catholic Church believed so as well.

  • Again, was I wrong?

No, you were not wrong. Of course, the Catholic Church has been one of the strongest voices against abortion in our culture. Of course such a woman should be discouraged from having an abortion, and offered alternatives.

Your RCIA director is grossly abusing a Catholic principle that is frequently, but incorrectly, cited in these situations. It is Catholic teaching that you must always obey your conscience, even when it is objectively wrong. (See Catechism #1800.) However, she is wrongly interpreting this to mean that you are free to do whatever you feel is right. Your conscience is the voice inside your head that warns you when you are about to either 1.) do something wrong, or 2.) not do something right. It reminds you of the moral law when you are about to violate it.

For example, you are surfing the web and an ad for a pornography site unexpectedly pops up.
You are curious and start toward the link, but a voice inside reminds you it's wrong, and you have no business going there. That's your conscience. Or you're walking along, and see somebody collapse on the sidewalk. You tell yourself it's none of your business, but a voice reminds you that you need to help the person. Conscience is not to be equated with your personal opinion. Conscience has to be properly formed, that is, it has to learn the truth. Your RCIA director is seriously neglecting her Christian duty, by failing to inform such a person about the truth that abortion is wrong.

  • Once you tell them that, then they can make their decision, but how can they make the correct decision if they don't know the truth?

The Catechism says,

"At the same time the conscience of each person should avoid confining itself to individualistic considerations in its moral judgments of the person's own acts. As far as possible conscience should take account of the good of all, as expressed in the moral law, natural and revealed, and consequently in the law of the Church and in the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium on moral questions. Personal conscience and reason should not be set in opposition to the moral law or the Magisterium of the Church." (#2039)


You said:
In addition, she told me that there are several active homosexual members of the parish. She said that most of them had been through RCIA. When I asked her if these members were receiving counsel regarding the sin of engaging in homosexual sex, she seemed evasive and just said "it wasn't our place to judge them." She said that "if someone was following God in every other area of [his/her] life, but was only sinning in this one area, then God would probably let them in to Heaven anyway." This violates everything I've ever learned in church about homosexual sex.


Well, yeah.

Your RCIA director is a full-fledged dissenter. She does not believe or teach the Catholic faith; that much is clear.

If you want to know what the Church teaches about homosexuality, read

The Catechism also states:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,[140] tradition has always declared that" homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."[141] They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarily. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

 

You said:
A passage I read clearly states that a homosexual person can enter the kingdom of God if [he/she] repents of the sin of active homosexuality, however, someone who lives an active homosexual life cannot enter the kingdom of God. My RCIA instructor told me that "even sexually active homosexuals would probably get into Heaven." As her defense, she simply said that "God was merciful, and wouldn't send someone to Hell for having homosexual sex, since homosexuals are all born that way."

  • What's going on here?

You are clearly right. Even if homosexuals are all born that way, it does not justify them committing homosexual acts.

  • What if pedophiles are born that way?
  • Are you going to let them fulfill their desires as well?

There is also evidence that alcoholism is genetic.

  • Shall we approve of alcoholics going on self-destructive binges simply because it's encoded in their genes?

Believe me, I am sorely tempted to ask you what parish this is and call the pastor and give him a piece of my mind about your RCIA director. :-) I don't think that will help you, though. The fact that you are hearing this is utterly deplorable. Basically, disregard everything she says. (In fact,
I would document it, and then once you are received into the Church, report it to the pastor, and if he doesn't take action, to the bishop.)

I would just urge you to find more reliable sources to learn from.

I highly recommend it. Alan Schreck's catechism is another good one, if you don't find the Catholic Catechism readable enough; Peter Kreeft has one too. I haven't read it, but I'd trust anything he wrote. John Hardon wrote one that I would consider reliable, but I have no idea whether it is exceptional or not.


You said:
On a couple minor issues, my local Catholic Church is noisy. very noisy; much noisier than most Protestant churches I've attended. This past Sunday, I wanted to sit in the pew, meditate and pray before Mass, but I couldn't. The sanctuary was simply too noisy. People were talking, laughing, walking and running around; children were playing in the aisles. No one seemed to care. Even the priest was standing at the rear of the sanctuary talking to a group of people. It was so noisy, couldn't think straight, much less pray. I ended up leaving right before Mass started.

When I asked my instructor about this, she didn't seem to care. She said "it just showed that the people at the parish were friendly and cared about each other." I can see her point, but it was extremely distracting. The silent atmosphere of reverence is something I've always found beautiful and attractive in the Catholic Church, and I was disappointed to find it absent in my local parish.


You are right that a church should be a place of reverence and quiet so that people can pray.

Given your pastor's choice of RCIA director, it does not surprise me that there is a lack of reverence or recollection in the parish.


You said:
Finally, every time I've been to Mass at this parish, the Eucharist has always been sitting out in the hallway, on a folding table next to the main entrance.

  • Am I wrong, or is this considered to be disrespectful?


  • Are you sure this Eucharist was consecrated?

It sounds to me that what you are seeing is the unconsecrated bread that will be brought up during the Presentation of the Gifts. If it was in an open container and next to a flask of wine, it was probably unconsecrated. Watch next time you go to Mass, right after the Prayers of the Faithful. See if they take that bread up to the priest.

I am sorry to hear that your local parish is such an awful witness to the Catholic faith. Don't be discouraged. Perhaps you can find a better parish, or even a nearby monastery that is more true to the Catholic faith. Look at the materials published by organizations such as:

and other organizations, faithful to Catholic teaching. If you want us to check something out that you've found, let us know.

Hope this helps.

Your brother in Christ,

Eric

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